A coming of age tale: The race for Generation Z starts now

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Laura Paterson

Just when you thought you had your Millennial workforce sussed, their younger (and even more mysterious) siblings are arriving in the workplace. Generation Z has landed; prepare to adapt your hiring strategies to accommodate this dynamic and demanding cohort within your business.



Though most who fit within this age group are still in school, the eldest have graduated university (or have taken the very modern approach and completed their apprenticeships) and are not only entering the workforce, but are now becoming second-jobbers. This is where Cedar has noticed the biggest shift in direction and attitudes with this new age of finance professionals. Many newly qualified ACAs have been leaving the Big 4 to join less traditional, more entrepreneurial businesses, bucking the trend of sticking with the safe options of either staying put and progressing in their role, or joining another big corporate and moving to industry. These young people are different – they are hungry for a challenge, are willing to take risks if (and only if) the potential benefits are attractive enough. What seems to be top of their wish list are more creative and varied roles. This new age of finance professionals is either starting out on their own or joining the Silicon Valley trend and moving straight to less conventional organisation once they qualify.


So why? What’s the attraction?


‘Comfort’ simply isn’t enough for this new breed of employee. Generation Z wants more stimulation

Millennials were digital pioneers, growing up in a rapidly changing landscape where they witnessed the advent of search engines, social media, instant messaging, smartphones and more. Generation Z are digital natives – they haven’t experienced a time where these technologies didn’t exist. If they are anything like my 8-year-old twin girls, they knew how to navigate a smartphone before they were potty-trained, were weaned on YouTube vlogs and could type in a search bar before they could put pen to paper. Access to knowledge and communication have always been at their fingertips. They cannot imagine a world without 24/7 media access, let alone take you seriously when you tell them that television used to stop at midnight and your mum had to get off the phone before you could connect to the Internet.


Now I, as an ‘in betweener’ (somewhere between the end of Generation X and beginning of the Millennials), am a digital migrant who remembers when (as recruiters) we paid frankly excruciating amounts of money to advertise jobs in the FT, whereas now my colleagues are tweeting invitations to upload ‘application videos’. I remember the days where CVs came in via fax and snail mail, and we had actual real-life filing cabinets containing hard copies of candidates’ records. My Filofax and business card wheel full of contacts and candidates were my most prized resources. Now I have a powerful CRM system, my Smartphone keeps me linked to the office no matter where I am, and I can access professional and social media platforms to source new talent. Our newest recruits just wouldn’t have been able to function in that old world you and I can remember. But whilst I can just about function in theirs, they are the ones shaping the future now, not us – so what do you have to bear in mind when attracting this new pool of talent?


How can UK Business attract this new breed of talent, and have the same allure as the shiny new start-ups?

  1. Be open-minded

Generation Z are individualistic and entrepreneurial, yet pragmatic, by nature. They have grown up amidst threats of terrorism and through a financial crisis. They are realistic about their expectations, and they expect to work both smart and hard to get them. They want to use innovation and creativity to take their businesses and their careers forward, and they need the chance to work flexibly and autonomously. They are forging their own new world, not fitting into your old one.


  1. Be less corporate

42% of this generation expect to work for themselves at some point, and 70% of today’s teenagers are self-employed, providing tutoring services or selling crafts on Etsy rather than working in retail or the service industry. The reason they are interested in starting out on their own, or attracted by the shiny, new modern start-ups is their fear of brain drain from big corporates, and of not being understood or not relating to Baby Boomers and Generation X. They trust individuals more than institutions. They are more comfortable with Millennials and their shared views about technological advancement, and corporate conscience. So, the answer is obvious: Be more modern, be less corporate, be more human.


  1. Don’t hide behind a computer screen

It may be counter-intuitive, since it’s easy to think that what this generation has gained in digital savvy they must logically lose in interpersonal skills, but the truth is that these technology whizz kids have a real back to basics attitude when it comes to face-to-face communication. This is down to their exposure to neo-digital communication and their preference for video technology like YouTube, Skype, Google Hangouts and FaceTime over text-based content and communication. They are hungry for real life human interaction, with facial expressions rather than emojis. Invite them to a meeting, don’t instant message them.


  1. Money doesn’t talk anymore

Generation Z are certainly interested in obtaining the financial stability their parents never seemed to, but they are interested in much more than money – they are interested in your business’s personality and ethics more than ever before, because they believe the business they work for represents who they are. They have a kind of professional existentialism, where they want to think they have an impact on the world. They will be interested in your business’s stance on equal pay and equal rights, as well as your sustainability policy and overall your business’s integrity and honesty. They want to know what you stand for, not just what you’re willing to pay them.


  1. They know when they are being sold to

This generation are not just savvy when it comes to tech – they, more than any generation before, are very attuned to when they are being sold to. Work-life balance and their work environment are important to them, but they want tangible, down-to-earth benefits, not gimmicks. They are also precious about their leisure time and while they don’t mind being approached through social media on a one-to-one basis, it isn’t the place for your recruitment advertising.


  1. Don’t keep them waiting

This generation has been plugged into the Internet since they were born, everything is instant and they are not patient by nature. Speed and convenience are a way of life. A protracted recruitment process will be frustrating for them, and signify that they can expect obstructions and bureaucracy if they did go onto work for you. This is not the way to tempt Generation Z through the door.


  1. Grow your own talent

Generation Z is prepared and self-motivated. They understand the world they have grown up in, and they know they need to think ahead to maximise their opportunities. There is also a trend for them to be more financially risk-averse, and for them to consider less traditional routes into employment that avoids large student debt. Apprenticeships are fast becoming a popular route into the finance sector. Reach out to your future employees while they are still in school, partner with your local colleges and give school-leavers the opportunity to learn practical experience whilst earning a salary rather than accumulating debt, and grow your talent from within. If apprenticeships aren’t your cup of tea, even graduates are still making their career decisions based on which employers offer robust development and training opportunities.


Open your mind and office door and they will come to you

Employers who take the time now to get to know Generation Z’s complex set of needs, wants, ideologies and priorities will be best-placed to keep up with the start-ups / less traditional organisation and attract this self-motivated group of individuals, who do not want their voice or ideas stifled by corporate dinosaurs.